Christ in the Old Testament
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, ‘Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?’ They answered the king, ‘True, O king.’ He replied, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a son of the gods.’ (Daniel 3:24-25)
The above passage is from Daniel’s book written while the Israelites were exiled in Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had refused to worship the Babylonian gods and had said they would rather die faithful than deny the trust that had in the God of Israel. The king had ordered them thrown into a furnace and burned alive.
This is one of my favorite Bible stories from the Old Testament. I like it, not only because it emphasizes the importance of discipleship when things are tough. I also find it intriguing because three people are thrown in the furnace but four people are in there! The fourth is unlike the others – he looks like a “son of the gods.”
One of the things we often forget is that the Son of God is eternal. We see signs of Christ’s presence and work long before the birth of Jesus! John’s gospel says that he was present when the world was made. Colossians reminds us that through him all things were made. And in our story today we see and hear of a son of the gods appearing and coming to the aid of the faithful in the midst of the firey furnace. For Martin Luther, who was a professor of the Old Testament, there were images of Christ all through the Hebrew scriptures. He saw Christ in the pages there as fully as in the New Testament!
As we turn toward Advent and the start of a new church year, we prepare for the birth of Christ. But it is important that we remember that while we meet God’s son in Jesus, he was at work long before Mary gave birth to him and he continues to work long after the cross and resurrection.